In 2015 Unlock started a project, supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, focused on fair access to employment for people with convictions. A key part of this work is supporting employers to develop and implement fair and inclusive policies and procedures that enable the recruitment of people with criminal records.


Why is this important?

  • Almost 12 million people in the UK have a criminal record.
  • England and Wales has one of the most punitive disclosure systems in the world
  • Around a quarter of people claiming unemployment benefits having received a criminal record in the last 10 years, and yet 75% of employers discriminate against applicants on the basis of a criminal record.
  • People with old and irrelevant criminal records are often discouraged from applying for jobs.
  • However, employers cannot afford to ignore the diverse talent of people with criminal records.

This page sets out our approach to employers:


Supporting good practice

  1. Promoting ‘fair chance recruitment’ policies, an approach which originates from the United States and which has ‘Ban the Box’ at the heart of changes in the recruitment practice of employers.
  2. Improving the policies and practices of employers by:
    a. Working positively and proactively with larger employers, engaging at senior levels.
    b. Developing a range of practical information and resources for employers to use to help them to recruit people with criminal records.


Challenging unfair/unlawful practice

  1. Identifying employers acting unfairly and/or unlawfully towards people with criminal records.
  2. Focusing specifically on employers that breach the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act by carrying out unlawful criminal record checks and/or unlawfully taking into account spent convictions
  3. Work to amend the policies and practices of these employers.


Seeking long-term change

This work is charitably funded. We are aiming to achieve long-term change in employer attitudes and practices. We are not promoting ‘charged-for’ training or seeking commercial income, nor do we have a vested interest in encouraging greater use of criminal records by employers.

Our long-term aims are that:

  • People with convictions are not discouraged from applying for jobs due to their criminal record.
  • Employers recognise the limited value of criminal records and reduce their reliance on them for recruitment purposes by critically questioning their effectiveness.
  • Employers that continue to use criminal record information improve their policies and practices so that they are fairer and more inclusive towards people with criminal records.


For more information

This is a brief outline of our approach to employers. Contact Rachel Tynan for more details.
Email | Call 07739 069042 | Visit

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